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Apple Accuses Sony of Fudging Walkman Capacity

Apple Accuses Sony of Fudging Walkman Capacity

by , 4:45 PM EDT, July 7th, 2004

Sony and Apple once had words of praise for each other, but today the two companies are engaged in a war of words through the Wall Street Journal. At issue is Sony's claim that the new 20 GB Walkman NW-HD1 can hold up to 13,000 songs, substantially more than the 5,000 songs that Apple claims its 20 GB iPod can hold. The difference, of course, is the compression rates used to determine capacity, and Apple has accused Sony of making an apples to oranges comparison. From the Journal:

In a statement, Apple said Sony isn't accurately depicting the song capacity of its new 20-gigabyte Network Walkman. While Sony says the device can hold 13,000 tracks, Apple alleges that the Japanese electronics giant, in calculating the storage capacity of the Network Walkman, is using songs that are compressed into digital files of inferior fidelity to those that Apple uses to calculate how many songs the iPod can hold (digital music of lower quality take up less storage but delivers poorer sound than high-quality songs). As a result, Apple posits, Sony's Walkman actually holds only 4,800 songs that have been compressed into a higher quality format.

"We're disappointed that Sony, which is new to this market, has decided to make their first impression by attempting to mislead the press and customers," Apple said in a statement.

[...]

"Sony chose to play marketing games so we wanted to set things right so that people could compare the devices apples to apples," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of hardware product marketing.

There is much more in the full article, including what the Journal characterizes as an "angry" retort from Sony, and we recommend it as a very interesting read.

The Mac Observer Spin:

This reminds us a bit of the public war of words between Apple and former IDG head honcho Charlie Greco over moving Macworld Expo back to Boston. Of course, that battle resulted in Apple eschewing the Boston show, and hanging out at DV Expo instead, but that's neither here nor there.

This cat fight is different, however, as it's over a market segment that is currently responsible for a big chunk of Apple's operating profits. It's good that Apple has attempted to raise awareness of how and why Sony's 13,000 song claim is misleading -- most consumers are not likely to understand the math behind capacity, and won't look past the marketing claims -- and really, anything either company does to raise awareness for their mutual products can only increase sales.

That said, the fact that Apple has taken this step suggests the company is either worried about Sony, or at least recognizes Sony as a threat. That, in our never humble opinion, is wise, and perhaps even uncharacteristic of Apple.

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